Adventure book with math problems and crossword puzzles?
March 20, 2022 8:26 AM   Subscribe

Have you heard of a workbook that combines a solo RPG/choose-your-own-adventure game with a little bit of a brain workout?

Last night, I dreamed about finding a workbook that was about exploring a haunted castle and had a mix of math word problems as well as some mini-crossword-esque puzzles, and I would love to find a real one, if any exist.

(I have played The Estate of Baron Archambaud, a solo RPG that has a few rather tricky puzzles, but the workbook I dreamed about was designed to be more educational, like something a nerdy twelve-year-old would have been gifted in 1992.)
posted by icebergs to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (10 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I backed this on kickstarter and haven't gotten my hard copy yet, but Letters to Margaret is a solvable graphic novel. I think it's more adjacent to the kind of thing you're looking for than a solid example of it.

My kids and I had fun with The Eleventh Hour: A Curious Mystery by Graeme Base (amazon link). The whole book is a puzzle.
posted by Well I never at 8:44 AM on March 20, 2022 [1 favorite]

just chiming in to say that this sort of activity book sounds very fun and i, an adult would also like this sort of thing.
posted by wowenthusiast at 10:28 AM on March 20, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Ooh! As a nerdy child of the 90s, this question is where I'm a viking!

I don't have an example off the top of my head that combines math word problems and crossword puzzles specifically. But maybe one of these?

* The Usborne Book of Superpuzzles, or any of the three individual books that made it up (Maps and Maze Puzzles, Codes and Cyphers, Logic Puzzles). I definitely owned Logic Puzzles and it was SO HARD! (Upon reading the Goodreads review there, if there was indeed confusing description text or even an error in one of the puzzles itself, I now feel so vindicated, haha.) If I recall correctly, the Logic Puzzles book had like four different adventure stories threaded through it, with puzzles to advance each of them alternating as you went through the book...and maybe they all came together at the end, though I'm not entirely sure of that.

* I don't think I was ever able to get my hands on any of the Advanced Puzzle Adventures, so no idea what type of puzzles are contained, but I definitely longed to find Codename Quicksilver just based on the title and description in the "More Usborne books you might enjoy!" ad in the back of Logic Puzzles. Wikipedia indicates that series is the more advanced/older-kid-targeted variant of a few related puzzle series, including one that's science-based which also sounds cool (though of course those and the Advanced Puzzle Adventures are the ones that are out of print, boo - I guess buy used, or hit up a library maybe?).

* They're targeted slightly younger, and don't have as much of an adventure story through-line, but on the math puzzles front I definitely have to recommend Sideways Arithmetic from Wayside School and More Sideways Arithmetic from Wayside School. They've got some logic puzzle/brainteaser items too, but I don't think I remember crossword puzzles in particular.

Excited to see if anyone has any newer recommendations along these lines though!!!
posted by sigmagalator at 11:07 AM on March 20, 2022 [4 favorites]

Best answer: The only thing I can think of that fits your solo-RPG/CYOA criterion is the Be an Interplanetary Spy series, which is fighting-fantasy style gamebooks but with puzzles instead of combat. If you relax that to just otherwise-noninteractive stories with puzzles, I think sigmagalator's suggestions are probably the closest I'm aware of (at least one of the Usborne Puzzle Adventures is actually about exploring a haunted castle, in fact). Farther out, there are a couple of targeted-at-adults mystery series that come with crossword puzzles as part of the narratives (hmm, I see these got made into hallmark movies, I'm a little curious how that works).
posted by inkyz at 11:38 AM on March 20, 2022 [3 favorites]

So what you might be looking for is a puzzle hunt. The big one every year is the MIT Mystery Hunt; you might want to take a look at this year's prologue,, which was designed for solo solving (vs. the hunt proper which needs a team). You can also check out the Puzzled Pint archives; here's another list compiled at the start of the Pandemic.
posted by damayanti at 12:13 PM on March 20, 2022 [4 favorites]

like something a nerdy twelve-year-old would have been gifted in 1992

Former 1992 nerdy twelve-year-old here! I'd also recommend the Usborne Puzzle Adventures as mentioned by sigmalator - we had a mixture of them (the original series, not the Advanced ones) and they were really fun (and educational, as to be expected with Usborne). They weren't really Choose-Your-Own Adventure, but I think at least sometimes you couldn't advance further without solving the clue to get the next page number. I don't remember crosswords in particular, but there was a mixture of clues with a lot based on spotting clues, and codes and that type of thing.
posted by scorbet at 7:33 AM on March 21, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: In childhood, which in this case means the late '80s, I had copies of Earth Brain by Keith Faulkner and Dragonquest by David Hill, both of which were Choose-Your-Own-Adventure with puzzles. Not quite what you're thinking of, but very engaging for eleven-year-old me. Unfortunately, neither is in print. Earth Brain is probably not worth ~£30 (plus shipping) to an adult encountering it for the first time, but Dragonquest looks to be a bit more readily available, and was the more difficult of the two.

The Usborne Puzzle Adventures were also, as everyone says, good fun.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 9:22 AM on March 21, 2022 [1 favorite]

... and also, look, I know you're not asking about computer games, but Puzzle Agent is such a good fit for what you're looking for that I'm feeling bad for not having mentioned it, so there you go.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 9:31 AM on March 21, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The Maze of Games by Mike Selinker is a 'puzzle novel' in a non-linear format, where solving the puzzles gives you the path through the book. Each puzzle takes up a two-page spread, and range from word grids to logic puzzles and maths puzzles. They are not easy.
posted by Hogshead at 9:45 AM on March 21, 2022 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Dreams really do come true!! Thank you all for sharing so many intriguing books and games with me! I'm excited to get my hands on Be an Interplanetary Spy, Dragonquest, The Maze of Games, and the Usborne Puzzle Adventures, and share the age-appropriate ones with my little nephews.
posted by icebergs at 1:12 PM on March 21, 2022

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